Protection of Conscience Project
Protection of Conscience Project
Service, not Servitude

Service, not Servitude

Special Joint Committee on Physician Assisted Dying
Parliament of Canada (January-February, 2016)


Parliament Hill

Special Joint Committee ReportClick to open report

In February, 2015, in the case of Carter v. Canada (Attorney General), the Supreme Court of Canada struck down the criminal prohibition of physician assisted suicide and physician administered euthanasia, but suspended the ruling for one year to give federal and provincial governments an opportunity to draft new laws that conform to the decision.  In January, 2016, the Court granted an extension of the suspension to 6 June, 2016.  In the interim, it allowed euthanasia to proceed in Quebec under provincial legislation in force there, and allowed individuals seeking physician assisted suicide or euthanasia elsewhere to apply to a superior court to obtain authorization.

A special joint committee of the Canadian House of Commons and Senate began work in January and produced a first report in the last week of February.  With respect to freedom of conscience and religion, the report recommends that physicians unwilling to provide euthanasia or assisted suicide for reasons of conscience be compelled to find someone willing to do so.  It also recommends that all publicly funded facilities - not excluding objecting denominational institutions - be compelled to provide euthansia and assisted suicide.

The main report is followed by a dissenting report signed by four Conservative (C) Members of Parliament.  The dissenting report erroneously states, "Quebec physicians are free to act according to their conscience," and recommends the "Quebec model" that purports to accommodate freedom of conscience and religion.  The Quebec model has been rejected by many objecting physicians because it requires them to become parties to homicide by referring a patient to an administrator, who will arrange for euthanasia.

A supplementary opinion filed by two New Democrat (NDP) Members of Parliament states that legislation "must ensure that every eligible patient’s right to access medical aid in dying is upheld, and protect any healthcare professional who objects for reasons of conscience from disciplinary action."  However, the authors of the supplementary opinion do not dissent from the main report, so this must be understood to mean that objecting physicians who refuse to arrange for someone to kill patients or help them commit suicide should be disciplined.

In Canada, the federal government has no jurisdiction over the regulation of medical practice or the operation of hospitals.  This means that, if the Committee's recommendations are to be implemented, provincial governments and medical regulators will be left to deal with the most contentious issue: compelling unwilling physicians, health care workers and health care facilities to become parties to homicide and suicide.


Committee proceedings have not been transcribed verbatim.  On important points, transcripts on parliamentary web pages should be checked against the video to ensure accuracy. Edited video transcripts provided here have been checked against the edited videos.

French language materials

French language videos and transcripts can be found by using the links below to access the parliamentary English language page, and then clicking on the French language icon or link at the upper right corner of the parliamentary page.

List of Meetings

Groups and individuals were heard during 10 Committee meetings, listed below.  Follow the links to the outlines of each meeting, which include:

  • Meeting number and date
  • Links to full videos and transcripts of the meeting
  • Witness list
  • Links to videos edited to show exchanges relevant to freedom of conscience
    • Links to transcripts for edited videos [Edited Video Transcript]
  • Links to briefs submitted by the groups/individuals
    • Links to extracts from group/individual briefs relevant to freedom of conscience (Brief Extracts)

Meeting No. 2: 18 January, 2016

Meeting No. 3: 25 January, 2016

Meeting No. 5: 26 January, 2016

Meeting No. 6: 27 January, 2016

Meeting No. 7: 28 January, 2016

Meeting No. 8: 1 February, 2016

Meeting No. 9: 1 February, 2016

Meeting No. 10: 2 February, 2016

Meeting No. 11: 3 February, 2016

Meeting No. 12:  4 February, 2016

List of Edited Videos

The edited videos provided here focus on

  • terminology,
  • the continuing effects of the criminal law,
  • the exemptions to criminal prosecution required to allow euthanasia and physician assisted suicide under the terms of the Carter ruling,
  • jursidiction of the federal and provincial governments in relation to criminal law and freedom of conscience and religion,
  • freedom of conscience and religion for individual and institutional health care providers who object to providing or becoming parties to euthanasia or assisted suicide.
Group/individual videos
Multiple participant discussions
List of Briefs and oral submissions

144 groups/individuals Links to the full briefs are provided below.  Click on (Brief Extracts) to see statements from a brief  relevant to freedom of conscience and religion for healthcare providers.  Click on [Edited Video Transcript] to see transcripts from edited videos.

Five groups/individuals appeared as witnesses, but did not contribute briefs, nor did they make comments clearly relevant to freedom of conscience in health care.  They are marked with an asterisk.

Bold face identifies groups or individuals who appeared as witnesses.

  1. Abramson, Jana & Kenneth (Brief Extracts)
  2. Adams, Andrew
  3. Advance Practice Nurses of the Palliative Care Consult Service in the Calgary Zone of Alberta Health Services
  4. Advocacy Centre for the Elderly
  5. Agger, Ellen (Brief Extracts)
  6. Alakija, Pauline et al
  7. Alliance for Life Ontario
  8. Alliance of People with Disabilities Who Are Supportive
    of Legal Assisted Dying Society  [Edited Video Transcript]
  9. Altschul, Denise
  10. Alzheimer Society*
  11. A Network of British Columbia Physicians (Brief Extracts)
  12. Anglican Church of Canada
  13. Association of Registered Nurses of Prince Edward Island
  14. Baker, David
  15. Barreau du Québec*
  16. Bennett Fox, Sara
  17. Bracken, Susan (Brief Extracts)
  18. Brienen, Arthur-Leonard (Brief Extracts)
  19. BC Civil Liberties Association (Brief Extracts) [Edited Video Transcript]
  20. British Columbia Humanist Association (Brief Extracts)
  21. Brooks, Jeffrey (Brief Extracts)
  22. Brzezicki, Barb (Brief Extracts)
  23. Canadians Advocating for Ethical Hospice Care (Brief Extracts)
  24. Canadian Association for Community Living
  25. Canadian Bar Association (Brief Extracts)
  26. Canadian Cancer Society (Brief Extracts) [Edited Video Transcript]
  27. Canadian Civil Liberties Association (Brief Extracts)
  28. Canadian Coaltion for the Rights of Children
  29. Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (Brief Extracts)
  30. Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops & Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (Brief Extracts)
  31. Canadian Council of Imams (Brief Extracts) [Edited Video Transcript]
  32. Canadian Federation of Nurses' Unions (Brief Extracts)
  33. Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association [Edited Video Transcript]
  34. Canadian Medical Association (Brief Extracts) [Edited Video Transcript]
  35. Canadian Medical Protective Association (Brief Extracts) [Edited Video Transcript]
  36. Canadian Nurses Association (Brief Extracts)
  37. Canadian Nurses Protective Society (Brief Extracts)
  38. Canadian Paediatric Society (Brief Extracts)
  39. Canadian Pharmacists Association (Brief Extracts) [Edited Video Transcript]
  40. Canadian Psychiatric Association*
  41. Canadian Society of Palliative Care Physicians (Brief Extracts) [Edited Video Transcript]
  42. Canadian Unitarian Council (Brief Extracts) [Edited Video Transcript]
  43. Catholic Organization for Life and Family (Brief Extracts)
  44. Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
  45. Centre for Inquiry Canada (Brief Extracts)
  46. Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (Brief Extracts)
  47. Chipeur, Gerald (Brief Extracts)
  48. Christian Legal Fellowship (Brief Extracts)
  49. Christian Reformed Churches in Canada (Brief Extracts)
  50. Clay, Pat (Brief Extracts)
  51. Clemenger, Lauren
  52. Coaltion of Healthcare and Conscience (Brief Extracts) [Edited Video Transcript]
  53. College and Association of Registered Nurses of Alberta
  54. College of Family Physicians of Canada (Brief Extracts) [Edited Video Transcript]
  55. College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia
  56. College of Physicians and Surgeons of Nova Scotia  [Edited Video Transcript]
  57. College of Registered Nurses of Nova Scotia
  58. Congress of Union Retirees of Canada (Brief Extracts)
  59. Congress of Union Retirees of Canada: Hamilton-Burlington-Oakville (Brief Extracts)
  60. Council of Canadians with Disabilities [Edited Video Transcript]
  61. Criminal Lawyers' Association [Edited Video Transcript]
  62. Department of Health [Edited Video Transcript]
  63. Department of Justice [Edited Video Transcript]
  64. DisAbled Women's Network of Canada
  65. Downie, Jocelyn
  66. Dying with Dignity Canada (Jarrett) (Brief Extracts) [Edited Video Transcript]
  67. Dying with Dignity Canada (Morris)  [Edited Video Transcript]
  68. Dying with Dignity Canada (Smith) [Edited Video Transcript]
  69. Dyment, Alan (Brief Extracts)
  70. Dyrholm, Joan (Brief Extracts)
  71. Eayrs, Jonathan (Brief Extracts)
  72. Ells, Carolyn [Edited Video Transcript]
  73. Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (Brief Extracts)
  74. Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (Brief Extracts)
  75. Evans, David
  76. External Panel on Options for a Legislative Response
  77. Farrow, Douglas (Brief Extracts)
  78. Fernihough, William (Brief Extracts)
  79. First Nations University*
  80. Fischer, Marilyn
  81. Fleming, Loretta
  82. Fletcher, Steven*
  83. Frazee, Catherine
  84. Frizzell, Sue
  85. Gobbi, Greg
  86. Goodwin, Lori RN (Brief Extracts)
  87. Hammond, Katherine (Daughter of Margot Bentley)
  88. Hartman, James
  89. HealthcareCAN (Brief Extracts)
  90. Hogan, Marcia (Brief Extracts)
  91. Hogg, Peter [Edited Video Transcript]
  92. Holmen, Denise
  93. Holub, Robert
  94. Hudgins, Janet
  95. Inch, Carolyn (Brief Extracts)
  96. Indigenous Physicians' Association*
  97. Johnson, Shirley (Brief Extracts)
  98. Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (Brief Extracts) [Edited Video Transcript]
  99. Koch, Jule (Brief Extracts)
  100. Kuchta, Gay (Brief Extracts)
  101. L'Arche Canada
  102. Lemmens, Trudo
  103. Leung, Constant MD (Brief Extracts)
  104. Lindstrom, Lena (Brief Extracts)
  105. Living with Dignity (Brief Extracts)
  106. Lods, Margaret
  107. Lovell, Jane (Brief Extracts)
  108. Lydon, Patrick MD (Brief Extracts)
  109. MacKay, John S. MD  (Brief Extracts)
  110. MacLellan, Pat
  111. Mandel, Ezra (Brief Extracts)
  112. Maple, Doris
  113. Marchand, Michelle (Brief Extracts)
  114. Martin, Mary
  115. Maryon, Betty
  116. McPhee, Margaret (Brief Extracts)
  117. Mental Health Commission of Canada
  118. Morison, Rhonda (Brief Extracts)
  119. Mount, Balfour MD
  120. Munroe, Pamela (Brief Extracts)
  121. Nurses Association of New Brunswick
  122. Perks, Allan
  123. Peterson, Heather (Brief Extracts)
  124. Physicians' Alliance Against Euthanasia (Brief Extracts)
  125. Protection of Conscience Project (Brief Extracts)
  126. Provincial Territorial Expert Advisory Group [Edited Video Transcript]
  127. Rankmore, Carol
  128. REAL Women of Canada (Brief Extracts)
  129. Registered Nurses Association of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut
  130. Richard, Spencer
  131. Saba, Paul MD (Brief Extracts)
  132. Salvation Army (Brief Extracts)
  133. Santoro, Burrell (Brief Extracts)
  134. Secular Connexion Séculière (Brief Extracts)
  135. Seeley, Patricia
  136. Shapray, Howard QC
  137. Society of Rural Physicians of Canada [Edited Video Transcript]
  138. Somerville, Margaret (Brief Extracts) [Edited Video Transcript]
  139. Squires, Collette (Brief Extracts)
  140. Sullivan, William MD
  141. Sumner, Wayne (Brief Extracts)
  142. Surgeon General, Canadian Forces Health Services Group
  143. Svec, Katherine Meaney (Brief Extracts)
  144. Toujours Vivant - Not Dead Yet
  145. Underwood, Katherine
  146. UNICEF Canada
  147. United Church of Canada (Brief Extracts)
  148. Vandenberghe, Joris
  149. von Fuchs, Ruth (Right to Die Society of Canada)  (Brief Extracts)
  150. Walker, Ken MD (W. Gifford-Jones MD)
  151. Warren, John (Brief Extracts)
  152. Widas, Mary
  153. Willoughby, Annette
  154. Wilson, John
  155. Wilson, Linda (Brief Extracts)